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Going Too Far: Essays About America's Nervous Breakdown
     

Going Too Far: Essays About America's Nervous Breakdown

by Ishmael Reed
 

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Challenging a prevailing attitude, this account disputes the idea that racism is no longer a factor in American life. Based on cultural and literary evidence—including Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn—it argues that, in some ways, the United States very much resembles the country of the 1850s. Not only are the representations of blacks in

Overview

Challenging a prevailing attitude, this account disputes the idea that racism is no longer a factor in American life. Based on cultural and literary evidence—including Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn—it argues that, in some ways, the United States very much resembles the country of the 1850s. Not only are the representations of blacks in popular culture throwbacks to the days of minstrelsy, but politicians are also raising stereotypes reminiscent of those which fugitive slaves found it necessary to combat: that African Americans are lazy, dependent, and in need of management. Bold and direct, this book brings an important debate to the surface.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this collection of previously published essays, interviews, and skits, poet, novelist, and essayist Reed (Another Day at the Front) takes the opportunity to let off steam about issues both social (the persistence of racism) and personal (his Internet brawl with Salon.com's Joan Walsh over an op-ed column he wrote for the New York Times). Reed tackles the Tea Party's shockingly racist antics, Obama'saccomplishments, feminism's effect on the black male image, the OccupyMovement—to varying results. Reed is best when he historicizes, as in hisessay "Ethnic Studies in the Age of the Tea Party," and when he draws on the more rational, even-tempered voices of others, as in his interviews with Terry McMillan and Nuruddin Farah. But when he does what he sets out to do—go too far—he is at his worst, as in his scathing essays on the film Precious. Many readers will find some affinity with Reed's work, buthis rhetoric can be too inflammatory (he calls Tea Partiers the "T-shirts"—"America's equivalent of Hitler's Brown Shirts," and derides "wealthy white progressive women") to comfortably digest—which, presumably, is exactly as Reedwould have it. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"In the past 40 years, Reed has published more than 20 books and has also made his mark as an editor, publisher, critic, journalist, songwriter, librettist, and fearsome letter-to-the-editor writer. . . . Reed is among the most American of American writers, if by 'American' we mean a quality defined by its indefinability and its perpetual transformations as new ideas, influences and traditions enter our cultural conversation."  —New York Times

"Just when you think that Reed is exaggerating or being one-dimensional in his analysis of racial issues, he'll open another page of American history and show you something new."  —David Homel, Rover Arts

"There is brutal candor in Reed's argument, which often feels refreshing in light of the euphemisms and platitudes typically expressed in both polite discourse and the media's self-scrutiny. . . . Whether or not one agrees with Reed, one can only be entertained by his gleeful barbs and edgy turns-of-phrase. He names names and shames with derision."  —Caroline Brown, English professor, Université de Montréal for Montreal Review of Books

"Reed's writing is incisive and astute, impassioned and amusing. He fully researches his topics and makes a decisive stand based on the facts, as he sees it. Whether you agree with him or not, you at least get to explore a different viewpoint."  —Gabrielle David, Phati'tude Literary Magazine

"Reed comes across as someone who would make an enthralling conversationalist. . . . Reed is not only a good interviewee, but also a good interviewer, a skill especially evident when he asks the actor Lou Gossett Jr. about the racial obstacles he has faced during his illustrious career." —Jean Coléno, professor of humanities, Dawson College for Montreal Review of Books

"Reed is a pre-future sage. . . . His fiction, poems, plays, and recordings are a moral looking glass for envisioning what we might be. His nonfiction, however, is at once testimony and indictment of what we are." —Jerry Ward, professor of English and African-American world studies, Dillard University

"Wonderful. . . . Bravo!" —Robert Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winner for the CIVIL warS

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781926824567
Publisher:
Baraka Books
Publication date:
09/01/2012
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

Going Too Far

Essays About America's Nervous Breakdown


By Ishmael Reed

Baraka Books

Copyright © 2012 Ishmael Reed
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-926824-59-8


CHAPTER 1

President Obama and the New Secession


"As the first African-American president he's been up against a racist white bloc in the Republican Party that has come dressed as the Tea Party." Frank Schaeffer, author of Sex, Mom & God, interviewed by Jonathan Capehart, substituting for Martin Bashir on MSNBC, August 12, 2011

The Tea Party Congressmen and Congresswomen didn't go to Washington to insist upon fiscal responsibility, but to destroy the first black president. This is a racist movement in which holocaust deniers, Neo-Nazis and Neo-Confederates play a prominent role and whose members are drawn largely from the secessionist states, states that cited their desire to continue using human beings as property as the reason for their secession. Writing in Salon.com (20 August 2011) Michael Lind found that the majority of Tea Partiers are white men from the South. It figures, because the Tea Party is a secessionist movement and the filibustering against President Obama's programs, the most frequent use of the filibuster in history, amounts to a new nullification. Early on, Senator Mitch McConnell announced that his goal was to deny President Obama a second term. He's from Kentucky and though Kentucky was not part of the Confederacy, a Confederate "shadow government" was a powerful influence on the state government during the rebellion launched by traitors.

The Tea Party is founded on a racist Big Lie. Broker, Rick Santelli, who calls himself the Tea Party's "lightning rod," said that whites are angry because minorities are receiving all of the entitlements, when it would take a few hundred years for blacks and Hispanics to achieve the kind of government largess that has been accorded whites, which includes forced land grabs at the expense of blacks, Native Americans and Mexicans; the resistance to minorities gaining financial opportunities, from the driving out of the Chinese from gold mines to the racist policies of the Federal Housing Administration, which denied millions of blacks mortgages for decades. Whites also benefited from FDR programs (the G.I. Bill was called the "white" G.I. Bill), the Great Society programs, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and federal highway programs that built their routes to the suburbs — suburbs that excluded blacks often by mob violence — just to mention a few. Whites even benefit from programs that were set up for the benefit of blacks like Affirmative Action. This is why there's a sixty percent enrollment of white women in colleges and universities. In ten years, it will be seventy percent. This is not the only program that's supposed to benefit blacks but ends up benefiting whites. Take the Small Business Administration. Associated Press reported on April 17, 1994 that "Minority Programs Mostly Aid Whites. The government's flagship program for minority entrepreneurs awarded $19 billion in contracts over the last six years, with the lion's share going to firms whose headquarters were located in primarily white, well-to-do neighborhoods. An Associated Press computer analysis of 'minority set-aside' contracts handled by the Small Business Administration found that 22 percent of the project dollars went to companies located in minority areas." The highest form of hypocrisy is exposed when one finds that Santelli's Tea Party, those who are offended by minorities benefiting from entitlements, are hogging all of the welfare. In an article entitled "Moochers Against Welfare," Paul Krugman ridicules Moochers Against Welfare, published in The New York Times, February 16, 2012

Now, there's no mystery about red-state reliance on government programs. These states are relatively poor, which means both that people have fewer sources of income other than safety-net programs and that more of them qualify for "means-tested" programs such as Medicaid.

By the way, the same logic explains why there has been a jump in dependency since 2008. Contrary to what Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney suggest, Mr. Obama has not radically expanded the safety net. Rather, the dire state of the economy has reduced incomes and made more people eligible for benefits, especially unemployment benefits. Basically, the safety net is the same, but more people are falling into it.

But why do regions that rely on the safety net elect politicians who want to tear it down? I've seen three main explanations.

First, there is Thomas Frank's thesis in his book What's the Matter With Kansas?: working-class Americans are induced to vote against their own interests by the G.O.P.'s exploitation of social issues. And it's true that, for example, Americans who regularly attend church are much more likely to vote Republican, at any given level of income, than those who don't.

One could say that in comparison to blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics and South Asians, the white middle class is living in a socialist utopia, however the upper class whites, with whom they formed an alliance under the banner of a Reaganite white nationalism, might be ready to jettison them. Jewish Americans who thought they'd been accepted into this coalition are now being threatened by the far right, which the Tea Party represents. This movement is anti-Semitic as well as racist. Maybe those Jewish Neo-Cons at The New Republic and Commentary (whose black representative is John McWhorter), who felt so secure in the embrace of white nationalism that they supported quack theories about black intellectual inferiority, will notice this new threat to the security of Jewish Americans. David Frum and David Brooks, who are urging the Republicans to cultivate white students and the white working class, should spend a year in Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Test their whiteness.

Despite Manhattan Institute spokesperson John McWhorter's claim that racial profiling is the last issue facing blacks, millions of blacks have been denied the kind of advantages accorded whites when buying homes. (McWhorter's changed his mind since he was used by Commentary to dismiss racial profiling as an issue; after the Trayvon Martin murder, McWhorter and other post -racers have retreated from this position, since Martin was the poster boy for the post generation; he enjoyed horseback riding and skiing. After denouncing my book Another Day At The Front, McWhorter just about admitted that he was wrong.) As late as Sunday, July 31, 2011, Tom Brokaw was blaming the economic crisis on minorities who bought homes that they couldn't afford. MSNBC's black correspondent Jonathan Capehart agreed. The reason that millions of whites regard blacks as failures, as drug addicts, as Affirmative Action babies, is because they get most of their information about blacks from news correspondents, Hollywood and politicians who embrace the same stereotypes about black Americans as they. Though some of the black commentators have some verve, the opinions of others are managed by white producers who demand that they be even handed so that they won't alienate their white consumers. This is why Melissa Harris-Perry had to say that "there are a lot of things that she likes about the Tea Party." What things? People showing up at the president's rallies armed? Ugly signs like those of the president as a witchdoctor or lying in a coffin? Prominent Tea Party members calling for his assassination or insisting that he was born in Kenya?

The propaganda promoted by Santini and others that blacks receive entitlements more than others is a false claim. So is the one about blacks getting into trouble for taking out mortgages that they couldn't afford. It fails to recognize that the banks discriminated against blacks by leading them to loans that bore higher interest rates, yet it fits the Tea Party's argument. Even The Wall Street Journal notes that sixty percent of blacks and Hispanics were eligible for conventional loans, but were denied because of the racist practices of the mortgage industry, details of which were developed in an article by Tanya Dennis, "Banking While Black," Oakland Post (3-9 August 2011). Moreover, the state with the highest number of foreclosures was Nevada, a state with a small black population.

Paul Krugman, columnist for The New York Times, is among the economists who've challenged this suburban myth. (This is the Krugman who is treated as the leading economist of the white power shadow government; he's had it in for Obama since the campaign when he called Obama supporters "a cult." Another critic is Frank Rich, the Don Imus supporter who now works at New York magazine. Constantly quoted by Obama detractors, Rich has called Obama "slippery".)

And so the Tea Party, financed by some of the 2 percent — mostly oil companies whom Barack Obama would make pay taxes and whose subsidies he would end, is based upon lies, hypocrisy and most of all, racism. But left and liberal commentators are reluctant to classify them as such for fear of being accused of playing the race card. Such is the intimidation that the Tea Party uses against its adversaries that The New York Times columnist Joe Nocera had to apologize to the Tea Partiers for calling them "terrorists." Standard & Poor's, the credit rating agency, cited Republican (Tea Party) intransigence five times on page 4 of its report as its reason for lowering the United States' credit rating from triple A to double A plus, yet the line promoted by CNN on Sunday August 7 and MSNBC, August 8, was that all were at fault.

The next day, while casting blame for the downgrading of United States' credit, CNN showed a huge picture of President Obama. (I was watching this CNN report while standing in line at the Kaiser pharmacy in Oakland.) Next to the picture of Obama, representing the executive department, was a picture of the Capitol building, but no photos of Grover Norquist, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from Virginia, or Republican Speaker of the House from Ohio, John Boehner, as though the only human responsible for the crisis was the president. (An elderly white woman who was in line behind me said, "Why don't they leave him (Obama) alone?" A middle aged white man standing in front of me agreed with her that CNN was ambushing Obama.) John Chambers, head of Standard and Poor's Sovereign Rating Committee, blamed the downgrading on Congress's inability to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner, yet the head mooner of the Tea Party, Michelle Bachmann, also blamed the financial crisis on Obama.

The white males, who still monopolize the airwaves and opinion pages, progressive, liberal, left and right, exclude the discussion of race when discussing the Tea Party. One of the reasons is because the producers, who are fond of making racist comments in private, are reluctant to turn off their angry white male customers with discussions of race. This applies to the progressive as well as the mainstream media. The progressives, to the consternation of the blacks among them, still rank class above race, historically. They still long for the day when the white working class will join ranks with blacks, Hispanics and other minorities and rise up against the Bosses, their version of the apocalypse. A mirage. This is why some progressives advocate an alliance with the Tea Party which they view as a working class uprising against Wall Street when the Tea Party in Congress was sent there to prevent liberals and progressives from taxing Wall Street and ending oil subsidies, which is why millions of dollars in Texas oil money are behind these pitiful saps.

W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington might have had disagreements, but they both commented about the racism of the white working class. Progressives have been accused of "white chauvinism" by black progressives since the 1920s. They still believe that it's all about class and not race even though the white workers have spurned most attempts to join in a coalition with minorities, sometimes by using violence.

The reason that the left is now led by white men who lack street smarts and are prone to this kind of naivety is because the white middle class feminist movement, which has gained influence over left wing politics, pushed black men to the margins of the movement by casting them as symbols of male misogyny. Even heroes like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. are now being subjected to what amounts to misogyny show trials, in the press and on Broadway, as a result of entertainment financed by white men. In an earlier period, it was W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington who were subject to ridicule: Du Bois for his radical politics, Washington, after dining with Theodore Roosevelt and after being beaten in New York.

Contrast the attitudes of Du Bois and Washington toward the white working class with that of Congressman Bernie Sanders, who wanted to primary Obama. He describes the Tea Party as one that reflects the frustrations of working class people. He must be crazy. Appearing on The Chris Matthews Show, just as clueless, on August 2, 2011, "progressive" Congressman Barney Frank said he didn't detect any racist leanings among the Tea Party members of Congress.

The Tea Party's racist roots weren't even mentioned by an all white male progressive panel on KPFA's Sunday Salon (31 July 2011) on which the vitriolic Obama bashing was led by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive. This guy was allowed to go out on Obama, to lose his mind about Obama for nearly an hour. Not once did the white guests and moderator mention the racist appeals that were used to build the Tea Party. Not once! Bill Maher who thinks that he's so hip and outrageous had among his guests Matt Kibbe of Freedom Works (29 July 2011). Not once did Maher mention that Dick Armey's Freedom Works has received twelve million dollars from the Koch brothers.

Obama hater Gloria Borger of CNN commended the Tea Party as people who came to Washington to assert their principles; people who couldn't be bought by promises of earmarks. People who are not beholden to party leaders; this is because their bills are paid by people like the Koch brothers. They're beholden to the rich who sent them there. A group of blondes, one of whom was from England and another a descendant of Herbert Hoover, were brought on MSNBC to criticize the president. Among them was Michelle Cottle who saluted the Tea Party's "purity." She works for The Daily Beast whose publisher Tina Brown is a Palin supporter. On August 7, 2011, The Daily Beast printed the comments of PUMA's Leslie Bennetts, who urged a Hillary Clinton primary challenge against Obama.

Purity? This is a movement whose former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her family have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from government programs. Receiving government assistance for their farm, counseling service and mortgage. Tea Party members also believe that their morals are superior to those of minorities. The Chicago Sun Times revealed that one of their spokespersons, Joe Walsh, Republican Congressman from Illinois, was a deadbeat dad. The Tea Party members say that the government should be run like a family, yet Taxpayers for Common Sense shows some of the Tea Party Congressmen to be heavily in debt. The media helped to create the Tea Party — in July 2011, CNN covered a Tea Party rally to which only 50 people showed up; the media covered a rally in St. Louis where only 3 showed up. So much so that one could term the Tea Party the media's brain child since Murdoch's Fox News, led by Willie Horton mastermind Roger Ailes, promoted the Tea Party while its call to arms was issued by Rick Santelli, who appeared on CNBC and delivered an ugly incoherent diatribe against the president: he launched the racist canard that whites were paying for foreclosures that resulted from blacks defaulting on their mortgages. The anti-Obama media can also be guilty of a conflict of interest.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Going Too Far by Ishmael Reed. Copyright © 2012 Ishmael Reed. Excerpted by permission of Baraka Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"In the past 40 years, Reed has published more than 20 books and has also made his mark as an editor, publisher, critic, journalist, songwriter, librettist, and fearsome letter-to-the-editor writer. . . . Reed is among the most American of American writers, if by 'American' we mean a quality defined by its indefinability and its perpetual transformations as new ideas, influences and traditions enter our cultural conversation."  —New York Times

"Just when you think that Reed is exaggerating or being one-dimensional in his analysis of racial issues, he'll open another page of American history and show you something new."  —David Homel, Rover Arts

"There is brutal candor in Reed's argument, which often feels refreshing in light of the euphemisms and platitudes typically expressed in both polite discourse and the media's self-scrutiny. . . . Whether or not one agrees with Reed, one can only be entertained by his gleeful barbs and edgy turns-of-phrase. He names names and shames with derision."  —Caroline Brown, English professor, Université de Montréal for Montreal Review of Books

"Reed's writing is incisive and astute, impassioned and amusing. He fully researches his topics and makes a decisive stand based on the facts, as he sees it. Whether you agree with him or not, you at least get to explore a different viewpoint."  —Gabrielle David, Phati'tude Literary Magazine

"Reed comes across as someone who would make an enthralling conversationalist. . . . Reed is not only a good interviewee, but also a good interviewer, a skill especially evident when he asks the actor Lou Gossett Jr. about the racial obstacles he has faced during his illustrious career." —Jean Coléno, professor of humanities, Dawson College for Montreal Review of Books

"Reed is a pre-future sage. . . . His fiction, poems, plays, and recordings are a moral looking glass for envisioning what we might be. His nonfiction, however, is at once testimony and indictment of what we are." —Jerry Ward, professor of English and African-American world studies, Dillard University

"Wonderful. . . . Bravo!" —Robert Wilson, Pulitzer Prize winner for the CIVIL warS

Meet the Author

Ishmael Reed is an essayist, a novelist, a poet, and a playwright, having won prizes in all categories. He is the author of Airing Dirty Laundry, Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media, and Juice, and a former professor at the University of California–Berkeley as well as at Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth. He lives in Oakland, California.

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